Posts Tagged ‘murder’

Agnes Callamard calls overturned verdict in Khashoggi case “parody of justice”

September 9, 2020

An independent UN human rights investigator called the overturned verdict of Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “parody of justice” that spared “high-level” plotters.  At a regular press briefing on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR), quoted Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, in saying, “they came at the end of a process which was neither fair nor just, or transparent“. [for earlier posts on Khashoggi, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

In October 2018, the 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi prosecutors in Riyadh had convicted eight people for the brutal murder. However, on Monday, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences in a final ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years, according to Saudi State media.

The press briefing came on the heels of a series of tweets from the independent UN expert who reacted disparagingly to Monday’s verdict. “The five hitmen are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but the high-level officials who organized and embraced the execution of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free from the start – barely touched by the investigation and trial,” Ms. Callamard tweeted.

As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State”, the independent UN expert upheld, “the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country“. She stated that “the Saudi Prosecutor performed one more act today in this parody of justice”, adding “but these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy”.

Brazil remembers Sister Dorothy Stang murdered 15 years ago

February 13, 2020

Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil.  (CNS/Reuters)

12 February 2020 was the 15th anniversary of Sr. Dorothy Stang‘s assassination in the Amazon region of Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered on 12 February, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. The U.S.-born nun is remembered as a crusader for the poor and the landless and for her love of the land and the Amazon forest.

Lise Alves, for the Catholic News Service, wrote about her on 12 February 2020:

She taught me how to be a missionary in Brazil; she was my mentor,” Sr. Rebeca Spires told Catholic News Service. Spires, who, like Stang, is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, said the first thing Stang gave her was Brazil’s land statute. “She was all about doing things within the law,” said Spires.

…She said that, in the early 2000s, Stang started to pressure public officials to combat land invasions by ranchers and large landowners, who wanted to take away areas occupied by smaller farms. The officials “became extremely irritated with her, with her persistence,” Spires said. “Although threatened with death, Dorothy never failed in her life’s mission, to fight for the poor of the land, so that they had their rights guaranteed and a dignified life,” read the statement issued by the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission to mark Stang’s death.Mary Cohen, a lawyer in Belem and a member of the Brazilian bishops’ justice and peace commission, was president of the human rights commission at Brazil’s lawyer association when Stang was in Anapu. Cohen remembered Stang’s determination, as the nun pushed and pressured government agencies into taking action. “She once slept on the steps of the INCRA (Institute for Agrarian Reform) so they would talk to her. She had a lot of determination, and that invigorated all of us,” said the lawyer. That determination made many people in the region angry. Trying to reduce the tension between landowners and peasants and their advocates, the lawyer’s association gave Stang a human rights award two months before she was killed.

We thought that more media attention and recognition of her work would keep her safe, that they (landowners and ranchers) would be deterred. We were wrong,” said the lawyer. And although Stang’s assassination made international headlines and caused worldwide commotion, those who continue her work say the threats today to the landless and their advocates are even greater. “There are still a lot of people being threatened, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s life,” Sr. Jane Dwyer, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur who worked closely with the murdered nun, told CNS.

Dwyer, who still lives in Anapu, told CNS she was uneasy about giving interviews over the telephone. She said that, since 2015, 19 landless, small-scale farmers had been assassinated over land conflicts in the area. “Nineteen in the last five years,” she said. “Of the 19 assassinations, in only one did authorities bring someone to justice,” added Spires, who works with the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council in Belem. Cohen said those who speak out today against the rich and powerful in the region continue to be threatened. “Her successor, Father Amaro (Jose Amaro Lopes de Souza), continues to be threatened, and when they were unable to scare him off, they accused him of extortion and inciting violence among landless peasants,” she said…

“The synod document is titled ‘Querida Amazonia’ (Beloved Amazonia), which … embodies what Sister Dorothy spoke of her entire life: ‘Dear Amazon, we are here to defend you, to protect you. Dear people of the Amazon, we are here to help you in your fight, in your resistance, in the recognition of your rights.'”

In-depth investigative report on journalist Miroslava in Mexico

December 30, 2019

On 6 September, 2019 the  Bellingcat Investigation Team published a piece “Miroslava: The Journalist Who Refused to be Complicit“.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/]. It is a very detailed report and worth reading in full:

Miroslava Breach lived under constant threat starting in March 2016, when she began to feel pressure over her publications regarding links between drug cartels and politics. She brought this to the attention of her old friend, the recently elected governor of Chihuahua state Javier Corral, as well as those in charge of the mechanisms at the federal level to protect journalists. The Colectivo 23 de Marzo is made up of Mexican journalists in collaboration with Forbidden Stories, Bellingcat and Centro Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Periodísticas (CLIP). We reconstructed the thread of threats linked to Miroslava’s work, the warnings that she raised about the danger she was in, and the clues that she let in her publications prior to her murder on March 23 2017 that the authorities did not fully investigate.

Miroslava Breach in the Tarahumara sierra. She investigated illegal logging, the effects of megaprojects, and narcopolitics. Source: Colectivo 23 de Marzo

Before her murder, a grey Malibu prowled down José María Mata street in the Granjas neighbourhood of Chihuahua. Security cameras captured the vehicle on the street six times between March 21 and 22 2017 as it passed in front of the two-story house now infamous for the murder: number 1609, with its brown gates and a small garden out front. On the morning of March 23, 2017, journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was shot to death while waiting inside her car to take her son to school.…….

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/09/06/miroslava-the-journalist-who-refused-to-be-complicit/

Can the UN do more to resolve Khashoggi’s murder?

October 3, 2019

Agnès Callamard
Callamard is speaking on the subject at Columbia University.

Exactly a year after Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, remains categorical: UN Secretary-General António Guterres can and should do more about the murder, and so should member states. “I am asking the secretary-general of the United Nations, the various heads of states, including in Europe, Canada and Australia, to speak publicly about the situation and to do so in places and circumstances where it is difficult to do it,” Callamard told PassBlue. “The demand I am making should not carry a heavy political cost if it is done in a more collective fashion.”In her June report investigating the murder of Khashoggi — the only official UN word on the matter — Callamard called on Guterres and UN member countries to launch an international criminal investigation and asked heads of state to rally against Saudi Arabia’s blatant attack on freedom of the press. See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/19/news-un-expert-agnes-callamard-says-saudi-arabia-is-responsible-for-extrajudicial-killing-of-khashoggi-and-calls-it-international-crime/

Callamard also explored other options to hold the perpetrators accountable in Turkey and in the US, saying in the report, “The killing of Mr Khashoggi thus constitutes an international crime over which other states should claim universal jurisdiction.

 

Callamard supports the notion of a Security Council resolution — which are legally binding — to call on countries around the world to unite behind a push to resolve the murder. But that’s easier said than done. Saudi Arabia, an influential, oil-rich country in the troubled Middle East, has a record of human-rights abuses, but it is often left alone by the UN Human Rights Council (of which it is currently a member) and other nations, including democratic ones in the West. Amal Clooney, Britain’s special envoy on media freedom, told The Guardian on Oct. 1 that “she expected a specialist legal panel, set up by the UK government and due to report soon, to champion a new standing UN investigatory mechanism into such killings.” It is unclear if other permanent members of the Security Council besides Britain — China, France, Russia and the US, some of them close allies and big suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia — are willing to stick their necks out to defend press freedom and pursue the gruesome murder of a 59-year-old journalist who worked for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, has traveled the world to ask countries to help resolve the murder. She was warmly greeted in many of them, she said at a conference at Columbia University, in New York, on Sept. 27, speaking through an interpreter. But not only did they resist her request for action, “they never said anything negative against Saudi Arabia.” Even members of the European Union, known to be outspoken about human-rights violations, have shown no formal or informal support to act.

Callamard, who is French and directs the Global Freedom of Expression project at Columbia University, said that she, too, traveled to many European countries during her investigation, and while they cooperated with her, none offered to help. She said she hoped that European and other Western countries, including the US and Canada, would unite to denounce Saudi Arabia’s crime in a more concerted way. (The US did denounce the murder but left it to the Saudi government to handle the case.)She worries that letting the case go will set a precedent, sending the message that persecuting journalists is something any country is free to do with impunity.

 

 

https://www.passblue.com/2019/10/02/the-un-can-do-much-more-to-resolve-khashoggis-murder-says-agnes-callamard/

NGOs remember 10th Anniversary of Natalia Estemirova’s murder

July 15, 2019

On the 10th anniversary of the murder of Natalia Estemirova, Chechnya’s most prominent human rights defender, nine international and two Russian human rights groups, jointly with FIDH and its member organization, Human Rights Centre “Memorial,” call on the Russian authorities to finally fulfil their obligation to conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into her killing, bring the perpetrators to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts, and end impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya.

Other members of the UN’s Khashoggi investigation team named

January 26, 2019

The United Nations’ human rights office in Geneva confirmed on Friday a Reuters report that three-member team of international experts would conduct an inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/u-n-rapporteur-agnes-callamard-to-investigate-kashoggi-murder/]. The other two panel members – in addition to Agnes Callamard – are British barrister Helena Kennedy and Duarte Nuno Vieira, a pathology expert and professor at the department of legal and forensic medicine and ethics and medical law at Coimbra University, Portugal.

The trio will visit Turkey from Jan 28-Feb 3 and plan to report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June, it said.

There was no word on whether the panel would seek access to Saudi Arabia or whether the kingdom would cooperate. The Saudi diplomatic mission in Geneva did not respond to inquiries. On 29 January Human Rights Watch stated that the team has in fact requested to visit Saudi Arabia. HRW added that” Once Callamard presents her findings to the Human Rights Council, UN member states should explore avenues for holding to account everyone responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, from the operatives who dismembered him with a bone saw to any officials who ordered or organized the killing.”

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/un-names-members-of-international-inquiry-on-khashoggi-murder-11166718

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/29/un-rights-expert-independently-investigates-khashoggi-murder

U.N. Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to investigate Kashoggi murder

January 26, 2019

A UN special rapporteur told Reuters on Thursday 24 January 2019 she will travel to Turkey next week to head an “independent international inquiry” into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/18/in-spite-of-khashoggi-riyadh-wants-to-be-the-capital-of-media/]

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was time for an international investigation and that President Erdogan had ordered preparations to be made. “I will be heading an independent international inquiry into the killing of Saudi journalist Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, commencing with a visit to Turkey from 28 January to 3 February 2019,UN Special Rapporteur  on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said in an email reply to Reuters in Geneva.

My findings and recommendations will be reported to the U.N. Human Rights Council at the June 2019 session,” she said.

[Callamard, a French academic who is director of the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression initiative at Columbia University in New York, reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and has a global mandate to investigate executions. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/agnes-callamard/]

Murder of Dutch IKON journalists in 1982 in El Salvador revisited

September 25, 2018

In the Dutch media a lot of attention is being paid at the moment to the 35-year old story of the IKON journalists who were killed in El Salvador in 1982. Some years ago I started to write up ‘human rights stories’ that I had been closely involved in, with the idea that some day they would be of interest. This seems a good moment to ‘publish’ for the first time the chapter on my involvment with the case of the IKON journalists:

1982 IKON journalists killing and El Salvador

…On 17 March 1982, three months before I took up my post as thea first director of the new Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM), the world – and especially the Netherlands – were shocked by the kiliing of a team of television journalists of the TV channel IKON in El Salvador. The very uncivil conflict there had already costs thousands of people their lives including the internationally known cases of the 4 American nuns and the progressive bishop Oscar Romero 1980. The USA under Reagan had clearly changed course and was openly supporting the Duarte regime against the left-wing rebels. The Dutch government – especially its ‘atlanticist’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans van de Broek[1]– was caught between its desire to appease the US government and to respond to the public outcry back home. The compromise reached was that the Dutch Ambassador from a neighbouring country (Jan Willem Bertens) was exceptionally allowed to undertake an investigation on Salvadoran territory, but – if no evidence of government involvement was found – that would be the end of the affair. The fact-finding mission by the Dutch Ambassador did not find any strong evidence; the report was left with the Salvador government and submitted to the Dutch parliament.

One of the first visitors to SIM was Yata Matsuzaki who was the partner of one of the journalists killed and on behalf of the families – who were not convinced by the inconclusive Bertens report. She asked me to take on the case and see whatever else could to done to keep the matter alive. There was even some money set aside for this by the families which was very useful as later – when the Dutch Minister Van der Stoel queried whether this kind of activity (i.e. second-guessing him) was within SIM’s mandate – I was able to refer to the fact that SIM was supposed to find externally funded projects and this had been one of them.

In fact, I had to scratch the bottom of the barrel to find ways to keep the case alive but fortunately the UN had just establish a “Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions”and I submitted the case there. With the help of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in NY I also tried to obtain copies of relevant telexes from the US State Department but most was blacked out.

This involvement with El Salvador led SIM to start a project on how to count human rights violations in general (with initial focus on Central America) and we tried to solve difficult issues such as killings by non-state actors and defining indirect victims. One of the persons helping in El Salvador was Marianella Garcia Villas who had come to SIM in early 1983. I offered to help her with obtaining political asylum in the Netherlands, but she insisted on going back as she was most needed there.  I felt not just sad and shocked but also ‘guilty’ when soon after her return she was murdered.

Then in May 1984 three Dutch parliamentarians (one from each main party) accepted to go on a mission to Central America (and the USA see picture) and I was asked to join as an independent ‘expert’. It became a memorable trip, including a shooting incident on the road in Nicaragua, but what crowned it was that in El Salvador I got a chance to meet with the Prosecutor’s office that was in charge of the IKON investigation. They kindly showed me the file and I was shocked to see that it contained almost nothing and especially that the report by the Dutch Ambassador – 2 years later! – had not been translated into Spanish.

Upon arrival in Schiphol airport, there was a well-attended press conference and when there were questions about the IKON investigation the parliamentarians agreed that I should answer as an independent expert. The journalists had clearly not forgotten their colleagues and fielded many questions. When asked what the Dutch government should do now, I replied that it is was time to re-open the investigation and that my colleagues on the mission representing a majority in parliament were well placed to formally ask for it, which they promptly said they would. When soon afterwards a majorly in parliament adopted a motion requesting this, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was not pleased and initially refused to carry out the motion. However, as this was not worth a government crisis the Prime Minster Lubbers engineered a compromise under which the Dutch government would follow up and at least translate the text.

In 1993 a Report of the Truth Commission of the United Nations on El Salvador concluded that the journalists had been killed in a planned ambush, that Reyes Mena was responsible and that El Salvador so far had failed to do research in order to sentence and punish those responsible. That same year an amnesty law was passed in El Salvador,…

and now (September 2018) I can add a final chapter:

A team of the Dutch television programme Zembla has traced the former colonel of the Salvadoran army, Mario Reyes Mena, who ordered the killings. The now 79-year-old Reyes Mena has been living in the United States for four years. Zembla found him through his three adult children, who are active on social media.

When confronted he claimed that the amnesty pronounced by the government of El Salvador covers his actions. However this amnesty law was cancelled in 2016. In August 2017, the investigation into the murders was already reopened administratively. Two Salvadoran human rights organizations, ‘Fundación Comunicándonos’ and ‘Associacíon de Derechos Humanos’, urged the Salvadoran judiciary to carry out the investigation and the ensuing prosecution.Gert Kuiper, de brother of one of the killed journalists has also started a procedure against the colonel and the Dutch Ambassador in El Salvador supports the move.

It is not known where we stand with this investigation but interesting is to note that in November 2017 another former Salvadoran army colonel, Inocente [SIC] Orlando Montano, was extradited from the USA to Spain to face charges relating to the 1989 killings of the 6 Jesuits priests.

Killings cannot have happy endings but justice is the next best thing.

[1]He succeeded in May 1982 the socialist Van der Stoel whose initial reaction to the killing had been more forceful.

Sources:

https://nltimes.nl/2018/09/25/investigation-ongoing-dutch-journalists-murders-el-salvador-1982

https://nos.nl/artikel/2251835-brein-achter-moord-op-ikon-journalisten-opgespoord.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/29/former-el-salvador-colonel-extradited-to-spain-over-1989-of-jesuits

STOP THE KILLINGS: you can help Front Line

July 13, 2017

At the end of last year I announced the new Front Line project to remember human rights defenders who have been killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/] and now I am asking you for your cooperation. If you yourself do not know any cases to be included, you could still forward the post to any person or organization you think could be helpful.  The main parameters of the project are:


The HRD Memorial – http://www.hrdmemorial.org

The the aim is to commemorate all human rights defenders who have been killed for their peaceful work in defense of human rights since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The criteria for inclusion is simply that the person targeted was a HRD killed because of their peaceful human rights work. (The HRD Memorial doesn’t include disappearance cases because of the difficulty in documenting the cases and trying to determine if the person is alive or dead.)

Front Line Defenders have taken a policy decision to only include a case with the permission of the family because of the risk of re-victimisation.

Any inputs (as well questions) can be sent straight to , Head of HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders [jimATfrontlinedefenders.org>]

Repressive governments continue to kill human rights defenders because they think human rights defenders are expendable people, that the killings will have no consequences and that the HRDs will soon be forgotten. The Memorial would be an important tool in the fight against impunity and to keep the flame alive. The Memorial and the participation of national and international NGOs will provide the basis for an international campaign with the theme “Stop the Killings”, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2018. 

Murder of human rights defender Ko Ni in Myanmar

February 1, 2017

On 30 January 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, joined her voice to the many that have strongly condemned the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and constitutional law expert, who was also the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy (NLD). Mr. Ko Ni was shot and killed outside Yangon Airport on Sunday 29 January after returning from Indonesia where he had been part of a Government-led delegation attending an interfaith study tour. A suspect has been arrested.

“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” the expert said, recalling her recent end of visit statement, where she highlighted her concern at the increasing risks faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others working on sensitive issues. [see below“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” Ms. Lee said. She expressed her sincerest condolences to his family, and the family of taxi driver Nay Win killed in the same incident after he bravely attempted to apprehend the gunman. The Special Rapporteur underlined that, “U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar.”

Also Front Line Defenders deplores in strong term the killing of human rights defender U Ko Ni. His profile [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/u-ko-ni] describes him as human rights defender and human rights lawyer. He was the legal advisor for the National League for Democracy. He participated in the pro-democracy protests known as the 88 Uprising and was a former political prisoner. Upon release, he became actively involved in the interfaith peace movement and advocated for the rights of Muslim citizens in Myanmar. He strongly opposed the country’s race and religion protection bill which was introduced in August 2015 and which restricted interfaith marriage and caused a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2016, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association. He also wrote six books on good governance and various human rights issues. U Ko Ni’s daughter reported that the human rights defender often received threats for speaking out against the continuing influence of the military on politics.

As recently as 25 January 2017 the Special Rapporteur had expressed her fears of government retaliation following her visit to Myanmar. She expressed concern that people may face reprisals for meeting with her. Lee recently concluded an official visit in the area during which individuals shared accounts of human rights abuses by the government. Some of the statements came from those in a hard labor camp as well as survivors of a village burning. Lee fears these individuals who met with her will face reprisals from those who believe the accounts given are contrary to the government. “I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power.” (Lee will submit her report on Myanmar in March to the UN Human Rights Council).

(Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar.) See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/

Sources:

JURIST – UN rights expert fears government retaliation following visit to Myanmar

http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-un-rights-expert-condemns-senseless-killing-respected-muslim-lawyer-ko-ni